Indy Foodie: Rosa Hanslits

Pasta-maker Rosa Hanslits sets the table at her newest venture, The Back Room Eatery.

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Rosa Hanslists of The Back Room Eatery
Rosa Hanslists of The Back Room Eatery

It would be too easy to call Rosa Hanslits Indianapolis food royalty. It would also be true. The Italian-born matriarch of Nicole-Taylor’s Pasta has been feeding and inspiring hungry diners for more than three decades. “I guess that makes us the old people on the block,” says Hanslits.

The “us” she’s referring to includes Rosa and her chef husband, Tony Hanslits, who were doing locally sourced food before locally sourced was a thing. They’ve owned and operated Italian restaurants (Tavola di Tosa and Tosa EuroCafe in Broad Ripple); sold their fresh-made pastas at farmers markets for years; and moved the business into a retail space in 2009, where they continue to host private weekly dinners in the kitchen.

What does the woman who learned to cook at the feet of her Italian mother and grandmother do next? Feed more people, of course. The Back Room Eatery is now open at Nicole-Taylor’s Tuesday through Saturday, serving  lunch and early-dinner dishes like tortellini in broth, Italian bread salad, and orecchiette pasta with house-made Italian sausage and broccolini. An early closing time means Rosa and Tony can have both things they want: a restaurant and evenings to themselves. “Life’s too short,” says Rosa. “We’re lucky we get to do it on our own terms.”

Rosa Hanslits’s Favorite Things

(1) Panettone: A sweet Italian bread with candied fruit and raisins.

Panettone and slice
Panettone and slice

(2) North Carolina cuisine: James Beard Award–winning chef Ashley Christensen is a favorite. 

Ashley Christensen
Ashley Christensen

(3) Villa Gabriella Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar: Rosa’s personal friendship with the maker means Nicole-Taylor’s Pasta is the only place in town to get them.

Villa Gabriella Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar
Villa Gabriella Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar

(4) A zester: Rosa uses this tool for many kitchen tasks, including topping her chocolate olive oil cake with orange zest.

Lemon Zester
Lemon Zester

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